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Yasugi Masayoshi

Entry updated 20 December 2021. Tagged: Author.

(1972-2021) Japanese author whose work was suffused with a gentle melancholy and a concentration on damaged people – a group of which he may have tragically considered himself to be a member. Graduating from the Law and Economics Department of Kyūshū International University, he worked part-time in publishing while writing the early fictions that made his name. He was also the editor of SF Prologue Wave, an online magazine run by volunteer members of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of Japan.

His early short fiction demonstrated an interest in the pathos of a Posthuman world, most notably in "Umi wa Anata to" ["The Sea with You"] (Winter 2004 SF Japan), in which the biological CPU of an interstellar spacecraft struggles to remember its previous existence as a married Earthman. He displayed a particular interest in the way that the human brain could process trauma, such as "Musume no Nozomi" ["A Daughter's Hope"] (2006 Igyō Collection), in which the titular child has no power of speech, but attempts to find other means of Communication; the pseudo-documentary "Aru Sekai no Nichijō" ["Daily Life in a Certain World"] (June 2008 Science Forum) which grapples with the aftermath of brain surgery; and "Emotion Parts" (Autumn 2009 SF Japan), in which the recipient of a malfunctioning artificial brain begins to hallucinate new family members. Many of these early works can be seen as prototypes for his later novels, although they are not overtly Fixups.

Yumemiru Neko wa Uchū ni Nemuru ["The Dreaming Cat Sleeps in Space"] (2004) focuses on a relationship that develops between two Clones who meet while undergoing counselling to deal with the psychological fallout of accepting that they are mere copies of unknown originals. Inspired in part by Greg Egan's Quarantine (1992), its depiction of star-crossed lovers who somehow become involved in a revolution on Mars, itself triggered by a sudden and quantum success of Terraforming, won Yasugi the "new faces" award in the annual SF Taishō competition. Among a scattering of further short stories in magazines and online publications, he also wrote Hikari o Wasureta Hoshi de ["On the World that Forgot the Light"] (2011), in which human colonists lose their sight and embark upon a project to artificially restore their vision. It is notable for its experiment in an Oulipo style, unstated in the book's early chapters, to describe the world entirely in terms by which the blind would understand it, with no reference how anything "looks".

Following the Tōhoku Earthquake of 2011, Yasugi was led, like many other writers (see, for example, Makoto Shinkai and Yōko Tawada) to allegorize the situation in genre form. Delivery (2012) is a work of Post-Holocaust fiction, set on a balkanized Earth in which a rump world government has maintained some semblance of prelapsarian technology and organisation, but much of the planet remains a lawless wasteland. Yasugi's protagonist is an inhabitant of the wilderness, one of several individuals calling themselves, at first cryptically, the Non-Origin, struggling to survive but also to carry out an initially unspecified mission. The set-up bears a close resemblance to the Anime Rakuen Tsuihō: Expelled from Paradise (2014), perhaps explaining the hiring of Yasugi to write the novelized Tie of the same name. His novelization added an element unseen in the original script, drawing upon The Singing Neanderthals (2007) by Steven Mithen, to argue that the development of music was an evolutionary step in the development of the human ego, commenting in a later interview that he interpreted the message of the Buddhist Heart Sutra as being one that "pain is born from the ego, so if you erase that ego, the pain will go, too."

In the latter part of the decade, he began work on Manazashi no Machi ["Gaze Street"], a series of pastiches of noir fiction, in which a series of teenage protagonists, ultimately linked together, are dragged into a Wainscot Society of faery folk, and obliged to participate in the vendettas of a supernatural syndicate. Considering the linked stories involved a growing coterie of urchins, it is liable to derive at least part of its inspiration from the schoolboy detectives of Ranpo Edogawa. Similar pulpy sf, something of a step down from his more cerebral earlier works, could also be found in Under Haven, an ebook series of Light Novels with a Chinese flavour, in which a lowly liquor store clerk is forced to become a courier for gangsters, escorted by a Robot lady assassin in the Wainscot Society of a corrupt Pacific resort. The title puns on "Haven", the in-story nickname for Tianjin Island, and "Under Heaven" (tian xia), the Chinese term for the known world. One can sense, in later instalments that sprawl out of single volumes into twos and threes, that Yasugi may have felt confined by the light novel paradigm, and yearned to work once more in longer-form prose – compare to Hiroshi Yamamoto.

Yasugi's death, apparently by his own hand, in December 2021, might also be attributed to the COVID pandemic, in that he had earlier confessed to relatives that much of his work had dried up as a result of it. [JonC]

Masayoshi Yasugi

born Himeji, Japan: 2 November 1972

died Himeji, Japan: 12 December 2021

works (selected)

Manazashi no Machi

  • Manazashi ["Gaze"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2013) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Marcey Naito]
  • Memo-sareta Mirai ["The Memo-ed Future"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2013) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Pitaten]
  • Kurosei no Hitman ["Hitman of the Black World"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2013) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Pitaten]
  • Kaigō ["Encounter"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2013) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Hiroshi Abe]
  • Hōfuku no Machi ["Town of Retaliation"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2013) [ebook: published in two volumes: Manazashi no Machi: na/99.com]
  • Tsukumogami ["99 Gods"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2015) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Kouki]
  • Kyōwakai (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2015) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Kouki]
  • Mirai kara Kira Mono ["The Thing that Came from the Future"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2015) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Kouki]
  • Nyotei no Yūwaku ["The Temptation of the Empress"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2015) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Kouki]
  • Chinkon ["Requiem"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2015) [ebook: Manazashi no Machi: na/Kouki]

Under Haven

  • Kubi wa Tsunagereta Shōnen ["The Boy Whose Neck was Bound in a Collar"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2016) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Ichisenman Doru no Shinzō ["The $10 Million Dollar Heart"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2016) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Chiisana Ōsama ["The Little King"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2016) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Ano Yo kita kara Saru ["The Monkey from That World"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2016) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Tomo ["Friend"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Kioku ni nikumareta Otoko ["The Man Hated by Memory"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Kubi wa Tsunagereta Shōnen ["The Boy Whose Neck was Bound in a Collar"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Shitai Shori Gyōsha ["Corpse Disposal Company"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Mirei to Kosodoro ["Mirei and the Swamp"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Yūgiri to Iu Onna ["The Woman named Yūgiri"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2017) [ebook: published in two volumes: Under Haven: na/]
  • Boy Meets Dead (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2018) [ebook: published in four volumes: Under Haven: na/]
  • Hōrai Akira no Kitō ["The Return of Akira Hōrai"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2018) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Shōsō to Tenshoku ["Frustration and Job Change"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2019) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Yūrato Shisu ["The Death of Yūrato"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2019) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • YU RA TO (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2019) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]
  • Haven no Shūen ["The End of Haven"] (Tokyo: Shōgakukan, 2019) [ebook: Under Haven: na/]

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